DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son-in-law showed up the other day with a T-shirt that said, “Suits suck.” This is a grown man. His wife wears a suit when required, as do other members of our family.
It’s really not a big deal, as this was just a casual get-together, but still seemed tasteless and maybe even slightly confrontational.
Should I be put off by this, and should I have said something? Where does it fit in the whole manners world?
GENTLE READER: Your son-in-law is not alone in being confused about the manners surrounding the posting of someone else’s words -- whether in the form of bumper stickers, T-shirt slogans, or things taped to office doors.
Miss Manners chooses to believe that your son-in-law did not intend to be rude -- in which case his defense must be that they were not his words, but those of the shirt manufacturer. His action in wearing the shirt was, he could claim, to share the joke.
As better-known people have discovered, no one, from the human resources department to the closest relative, believes this excuse, and with good reason. Etiquette sees no important difference between words printed on your chest and those coming out of your mouth -- a point worth making to your daughter, if not directly to your son-in-law.